Club slaps life ban on top golfer
City court clicks on cyber crime case
Gabbar spurs disco raid
Pilgrims die in twin road mishaps
Find a dream partner at a fair
The City Diary
Invigilation mandatory for CU teachers
Dozen squads dropped from R-Day parade
Stiff sanctions on teachers
ISI ‘spy’ alleges frame-up

Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
Smriti (Simi) Mehra’s swipe at their greens has made Royal Calcutta Golf Club (RCGC) see red. The oldest golfing club outside UK has decided to “ban for life ” the only Indian to play the LPGA Tour.

Neeraj Bhalla, CEO, RCGC, said on Sunday: “The doors of the Royal are shut for her (Simi). She will never be allowed to enter the club premises. And if she doesn’t take back her words, we can take legal action against her.”

This comes in the wake of what Simi told Metro on the morning of January 10. “Given a choice, no decent golfer would be seen at RCGC,” she had said, pointing to the “sand-and-mud patches” that had forced her to abandon plans to practise on the course in December 2001. Instead, she had gone off to DLF in the Capital for a month, only to be back for her engagement on January 2.

Simi was told about the RCGC action hours before leaving for Taiwan to play the Asian Circuit. “I stand behind my statements. As for the ban, I am not even a member of RCGC. All they can do is debar me from using the facilities as a guest. Instead of taking well-meaning criticism from the only Indian golfer playing in the US, this is what they do,” said one of the most successful sportspersons the city has seen in recent times.

“I had exercised my constitutional right to freedom of speech by giving an honest opinion about the golf course I had grown up on. I did not take any names, as I have no personal prejudice against anybody at the club. But if Leander (Paes) says something about a tennis court or Sourav (Ganguly) says something about a cricket pitch, won’t people listen to them and try and improve things, rather than banning them from a club or a stadium?” asked Simi.

The Florida-based pro, who is embarking on “a big year” which will see her taking a crack at the British Open, as well, concluded: “I had hoped that by saying what so many other golfers want to but can’t, attention would finally be focussed on the way the sport is being run in this city. I have no vested interests in that course, because I hardly play here. What I had said was for the young golfers in the city, hoping that something would be done to improve playing conditions here.”

At the RCGC, meanwhile, CEO Bhalla said: “The Royal has stood the test of time. We have nothing to say in defence of the course. Those who know Royal know how good the course is.”

Across Deshapran Sashmal Road, at Tollygunge Club, there was “consternation” over Simi’s remark that its course was “worse than Royal”. A.K. Chowdhuri, managing member, golf, Tollygunge Club, said: “We at the Tolly are aggrieved at what Ms Mehra has said about our course. This is absolutely uncalled for and has hurt the sentiments not only of Tolly members but of Calcuttans in general.”


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
Come January 30, Alipore court will have a task on its hand that is a never-before in the annals of any court in West Bengal. It is going to hear allegations and counter-arguments to prove — or disclaim — a case of cyber-crime under the Information Technology Act of 2000.

The closest a court in Bengal came to cyber-crime was two years ago, when the same court took up a case initiated by the state against an individual for defaming then chief minister Jyoti Basu on the worldwide web. But that case, legal circles pointed out, was against alleged acts of obscenity and defamation performed by the accused, Samit Khemka, and not exactly a case of cyber-crime.

Cyber laws did not exist in the last millennium, at least not in India, they explained, making it impossible for the state to charge Khemka with their violation. He was, instead, charged with other Indian Penal Code clauses dealing with obscenity and vulgarity.

The case now with Alipore court, however, is significantly different. The accused has been charged with a clause of the Information Technology Act by the complainant, making it the first IT Act case to have succeeded in getting the cognisance of a court in Calcutta and Bengal.

The case is also different from the Basu case, as it has its roots in marital discord. The complainant, Ramen Basu, and the accused, Smita Basu (both names are fictitious and the true identities are being withheld), are estranged and fighting a divorce suit, besides the cyber-crime case.

Ramen’s advocate, T.N. Raychaudhuri, told Metro: “Evidence provided to the court shows that Smita indulged in cybersex and used her husband’s computer for the purpose.”

The court, when it hears the case, will have before it a photocopy of a printout showing “transmission and receipt of obscene information in the electronic form”, the case made out by Ramen’s lawyers state.

“The accused not only received communication by e-mail but also responded to the messages. Their contents clearly reveal that the material transmitted was lascivious and designed to appeal to the prurient taste,” the document adds, claiming the receipts and transmissions violate section 67 of the IT Act.

Chief judicial magistrate of Alipore Court A.M. Raha, after considering the statement and materials provided as evidence, admitted that a “case had been made out, prima facie”, violating the particular clause of the Act.

Taking cognisance of the case, he asked both defendant and complainant to be present for the next hearing on January 30, thereby presenting the court — and the others in the state — with something that was, to date, a yet-to-be-used rule.


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
The detective department of the city police raided a couple of discotheques late on Saturday and arrested three persons on charges of “irregularities”, while contract killer-turned-informer Rashid Alam, alias, Gabbar waited outside.

“My favourite spots for clinching crime deals were discotheques, as we knew they don’t attract the attention of police informers,’’ Gabbar told investigators on Saturday, giving them details of how he and his associates gained access to the night clubs and the manner in which deals were struck with “clients”.

Sources in the detective department said Gabbar had tipped off the police about Naushad, Akram and Raju turning up at a disco around midnight on Saturday. He also told the police that three other criminals, wanted in murder, rape and extortion cases, were supposed to meet at another nightclub early on Sunday.

Deputy commissioner of police, detective department, Soumen Mitra said the disc jockey, manager and floor manager of one of the discos were arrested during the raid. “We have found some irregularities in the paperwork, which we are investigating,’’ Mitra said.

Gabbar, who had been picked up from a Kankurgachhi club last month, has been charged with the murder of Sanjeev Jhulka, alias Bunty, in May last year. He accompanied the detectives on their raids and waited in a private car outside. “We took him along to identify some of his associates,’’ a detective said.

But the sleuths returned empty-handed, as none of Gabbar’s associates turned up at the two nightclubs. Detectives shut down the discos briefly and conducted a search.

“We managed to pick up seven criminals, including three girls barely out of their teens. But they are not the ones on our wanted list,’’ a sleuth said. All the seven were detained for interrogation.

Police said Gabbar would frequent these nightclubs, to which he and his associates enjoyed easy access. “We have warned hotels to screen the people entering their discos… We will continue these raids to curb crime.”


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
Eight persons were killed and 13 others critically injured in two accidents in Diamond Harbour early on Sunday, police said.

A Ganga Sagar-bound bus, carrying 48 pilgrims, hit a culvert and plunged into a 10-ft-deep ditch. An hour earlier, a cyclist, identified as Sisir Dey, 35, was crushed under the wheels of a speeding vehicle on the same spot.

Around 3.30 am, the bus, loaded with pilgrims, was speeding towards Harwood Point when it overturned after a front wheel tyre burst, said officer in-charge of Diamond Harbour police station Ranjit Mondol.

The bus, which had left Metiabruz around 1 am, had barely entered Chandnagar after a two-and-a-half hour journey when the mishap occurred, a few yards away from the site where Dey was crushed under the wheels of another speeding bus.

Hearing cries of help from the passengers trapped within the bus, sub-divisional police officer Deep Shankar Rudra and his men swung to the rescue.

The passengers were fished out of the ditch. Local residents lent a hand. The injured, six men and seven women, were rushed to hospital. Hospital superintendent Asit Samanta said: “At least 10 of them are in a critical state.”

Efforts are also on to ascertain whether any of the dead hailed from Calcutta.

The accident left hundreds of pilgrims stranded, as traffic movement came to a halt from early morning.

“From Joka to Amtala, all we can see is vehicles crawling along at a snail’s pace. The unprecedented flow of pilgrims has complicated our work,” said a senior police officer.


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
Shubho Drishti on a grand scale. That’s what a mega marriage meet early next month promises to be. Relations, a matrimonial consultant operating out of a small office in Jadavpur, is ready to make the process of selecting a bride or a groom — for close to 500 families — simpler and swifter than ever before.

On February 3, Relations will host what owner Anindya Sanyal describes as “an engagement fair to facilitate interaction between prospective brides and grooms and their families”. The event will be anchored by Madhumanti Moitra and Satinath Mukhopadhyay at a leading hotel in south Calcutta, where people trying to get married can meet over a meal and, maybe, even give Cupid a chance or two to take aim.

Madhumanti and Satinath will introduce the panel of wannabe brides and grooms, and allow them and the families to interact for over three hours. “It promises to be an interesting event… It could prove to be quite a novel beginning for many, but one shouldn’t expect more than that from one evening,” says Madhumanti. “It should definitely help the parents a lot. And it’s any day a better way of initiating the matrimonial process than the conventional farce,” she adds.

According to Sanyal, around 350 members of Relations will be allowed to participate for free, but their parents will have to pay the entrance fee of Rs 650 per head. “We will not allow anyone to attend the function without parents or guardians. We don’t want anyone to fool around. After all, we are dealing with something that can make or break lives.”

The model, say the organisers, is European. “Events aimed at bringing together unmarried people are often organised by the church there. Men and women not only meet there, but wine, dine and spend some time together. We are trying to replicate the same thing here,” said Sanyal.

Relations had experimented with the idea last year, but on a much smaller scale. “Some 100-odd families turned up, of which at least 20 found their dream partners. This time, a much higher turnout is assured, with enquiries already piling up,” says Sanyal. The objective of the exercise, of course, is to simplify and expedite the otherwise lengthy and laborious process of selection. “The conventional matrimonial method of exchanging letters and visits takes too long. Various social and personal factors often derail the process. A congregation should eliminate all these hassles,” conclude the organisers.



US visa, exchange fees revised

Reflecting the current exchange rate of Rs 49 to US $ 1, the US embassy has announced changes in the visa application and exchange fees. Consular sections of the American embassy and consulates in Calcutta, Chennai and Mumbai periodically alter the rupee payments for their consular application and insurance fees to bring them at par with the changing exchange rate. A list of fees at the new exchange rates:

Non-Immigrant visa application: $ 45 — Rs 2,205

Non-Immigrant visa issuance: $ 75 — Rs 3,675

Immigrant visa application: $ 260 — Rs 12,740

Immigrant visa issuance fee: $ 65 — Rs 3,185

Returning residents: $ 50 — Rs 2,450

Buddha lauds police efforts

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee on Sunday lauded the efforts of Calcutta Police in keeping crime under control. “Despite several constraints, they have done a wonderful job,” he said at the concluding programme of the annual sports meet of Calcutta Police. Bhattacharjee also said that he would withdraw ration facilities to policemen in order to plug corruption in the supply. Instead, he would draw up a scheme for food allowances. Steps to improve facilities at the police hospital and barracks of constables and sub-inspectors were also announced.

Event deferred

Smriti Sandhya, organised by Bimal Roy Memorial Committee and scheduled at Nazrul Mancha on Monday, has been postponed due to the illness of committee chairman and Roy’s daughter, Rinky Bhattacharya.

Telephone strike

The Telephone Services Society (TSS) on Sunday opposed Monday’s token strike called by the STD/ISD pay-phone booth-owners to protest the slashing of STD rates by 60 per cent. TSS general secretary T.S. Srinivasan said “the strike was unjust and anti-people”.

Seminar on peace

A seminar on ‘Terrorism, Violence and Peace’, organised by Forum for People’s Initiative and Association of Concerned Teachers, was held on Sunday. Minister Satyasadhan Chakraborty attended.    

Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
In a bid to increase involvement of teachers in examination-related work, Calcutta University has decided to do away with its age-old system of deploying research scholars and non-teaching employees in examination halls on invigilation duty during post-graduate examinations.

Instead, the university will appoint only teachers of the respective departments to oversee the candidates during all post-graduate examinations. The new system has been put into effect recently.

According to sources in the university, invigilation during examinations is a part of the duty of teachers and they are to do the job without any additional remuneration.

But over the past decades, the university had been practising a system of appointing research scholars for invigilation duty.

As a result, many faculty members could skip invigilation duty, even though it is obligatory for them. There are instances when non-teaching staff were also asked to stand in for invigilation duty at post-graduate examination halls.

The sources said the government, as a part of its drive to improve work culture in state-aided educational institutions, had recently sent a directive to the university, asking the authorities to ensure that teachers are made to perform their obligatory duties.

The move also followed complaints from a section of examinees, who said that absence of teachers in the examination halls led to confusion, as the invigilating research scholars often failed to clarify their doubts on the question papers.

“Along with setting question papers and examining answer scripts, invigilating during examinations is a part of the duty of the teachers engaged at the post-graduate level,” said an official of the university, preferring anonymity.

“In the revised system, only teachers of the respective subject will be required to be present at the examination hall to mind the candidates. For example, only a teacher who teaches chemistry will be deployed during the M.Sc chemistry examination,” the official said.

The university authorities are expected to save a considerable amount by not engaging research scholars, as over 200 post-graduate examinations are conducted by the university every year, and each of the scholars who stood in as invigilator was given refreshment and paid a nominal remuneration.

Undertrial death: There was furore in Alipore Central Jail after the death of 23-year-old undertrial Chandi Biswas in the jail hospital on Sunday morning. His co-inmates charged the doctors with negligence.

Jail authorities started a probe and sent a report to the state human rights commission. They also ordered a magisterial inquest. Biswas, sentenced to six years’ rigorous imprisonment on charges of murder, was lodged in jail in February last year. He had been suffering from various mental ailments.


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
Reverses continue to dog this year’s Republic Day parade. First, the army, which plays a pivotal role every year, bowed out, as it had to rush men and material to the western frontier.

The police, usually sideline players, took charge of stitching together the marching and performing contingents. Five rehearsals later on Friday, they were forced to drop almost a dozen contingents for “non-performance.’’ The police are now left with 48 squads for the parade. Some more face the axe.

According to additional director-general of armed police Ranjit Mohanty, squads of the South 24-Parganas civil defence, Alipur Hind United, Indira Gandhi Memorial School and St Joseph and Mary’s School have been dropped.

“We took a close look at them during the five rehearsals and found them well below par,’’ said Mohanty, who is in charge of organising the parade. Governor Viren J. Shah will take the salute.

Sources said the key attraction of earlier parades were the armoured carriers, tanks and other equipment of the army. But this year, the police tried to make up for the losses with tableaux and artistic performances by the non-governmental organisations and schools.

Police officers taking part in the rehearsals said the show has been disappointing so far and contingents have been directed to tone up their act. Many policemen and contingents are taking part for the first time.

Despite the early reverses, police are hopeful of putting up a grand show. “There are quite a few major surprises in store. We will definitely not disappoint the people,’’ Mohanty said.


Calcutta, Jan. 13: 
Teachers and and non-teaching staff of government-recognised schools will have to declare four times a year that they are not engaged in tuition or trade and are not working as agents of any company.

If they refuse to abide by this government directive, they run the risk of having their salary cheques withheld.

In one stroke, the government has put out of the reach of teachers several options to supplement their income. The order was issued in the third week of December last year.

Every employee is now required to declare that he/she is not “engaged in giving private tuitions to students of any school or any other institution” or “in any kind of business or trade”. He/she is also barred from being “the agent of any company/corporation”.

The teachers and non-teaching staff — who often wield influence disproportionate to their designation — of all madarsas and schools recognised by the government will have to fill up a self-declaration form and answer a 10-point questionnaire every three months.

The form will have to be addressed to the secretary of the school-managing committee. After it is signed by every committee member or the administrator of the institution, it will have to be forwarded to the secondary education department

The declaration has to be deposited at the office of the district inspector or additional district inspector of schools at the beginning of every quarter of the financial year.

The deadline for depositing these forms is the first fortnight of the quarter. If this is not met, the financial grant the institution receives to pay the deviant teacher or the non-teaching staffer will be withheld.

The government reserves the right to take penal action against a teacher or non-teaching staffer if any inquiry into his/her declaration reveals it to be factually incorrect.

Some of the questions that have been listed in the government order are:

Whether any teaching and non-teaching staffer of the school or madarsa gives private tuition or is engaged in any kind of business or acts as the agent of any company or corporation;

Whether all staffers regularly attend school as laid down by the institution’s rules;

What the status of the employee’s pension is;

What vacancies are likely to occur till December 31 of the academic year and whether this has been brought to the notice of the district inspector of schools;

Whether the school maintains a minimum roll-strength as prescribed by the authorities;

Whether the success percentage in the last three Madhyamik exams have fallen below 60 per cent for schools in urban areas, 30 per cent in educationally-backward areas and 40 per cent in the rest of the state;

Whether applications for grant-in-aid are regularly submitted to the district inspector of schools.

The government order, however, spares the staff of primary schools. The new rules are applicable to junior high, high and secondary schools only.

But headmasters and headmistresses of most schools, under pressure from the CPM-backed All-Bengal Teachers’ Association, are yet to circulate the self-declaration forms.


Siliguri, Jan. 13: 
Alleged ISI agent Abdul Bari Panwalla was today brought here under a “production” warrant from Delhi by the special investigation team and remanded in police custody for 13 days. He was allegedly an ISI facilitator and prime hawala operator funding espionage activities in the country.

Panwalla told reporters that he had been “framed” in the spy case by vested interests. “Tho-ugh my family has been living in India for the past 70 to 80 years, I have been framed a traitor. Yes, I own a thriving betel leaf business, mainly exporting to Pakistan. I also have relatives in Hyderabad, Lahore and other parts of Pakistan. Just because I frequently visit the neighbouring country on business and to meet relatives — and that too with valid travel documents — does not mean that I am a spy. I have been arrested for a crime that I have no connection with.”

Panwalla was arrested by Delhi police on January 4, following disclosures by Mohammad Dilshad, a Pakistani who allegedly led an espionage ring in north Bengal and had several army and civilian agents on his payroll. Dilshad claimed Panwalla was a major ISI facilitator responsible for channelling funds to several “resident” agents in India.

Panwalla said Dilshad could be one of the hundreds of people he met during the course of business “transactions”.

However, police have contradicted Panwalla’s claim. “Each blames the other for having blown the cover off the ISI’s operations in the region... We have dispatched several teams to verify certain inputs divulged by the two ISI operatives during a joint interrogation today. Teams will shortly leave for Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and other states to verify and even make arrests if necessary,” Darjeeling SP Sanjay Chander said.


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